MONTREAL — The Montreal Impact have a chance for a repeat performance when their Major League Soccer season resumes on Thursday.
It’s a detail that isn’t lost on head coach Thierry Henry, who is well aware the task won’t be simple as his club takes on the New England Revolution in its opening match at the MLS is Back tournament.
The game comes four months after Montreal defeated New England 2-1 in its 2020 MLS season opener Feb. 29 at Olympic Stadium.
“It’s never easy to beat a team twice, practically in a row, in the same season, but we’ll try to do it,” Henry said in a video conference Tuesday afternoon.
Henry said the two teams should offer up a different contest from their first duel. The Impact were missing midfielder Victor Wanyama for the showdown in Montreal, while the Revolution were without midfielder Carles Gil. Both players are at the MLS is Back tournament.
“Bruce Arena is an experienced coach. You have a player like (Gustavo) Bou, like Gil, these are players who can make a difference at any time, there are experienced players on this team,” Henry said.
MLS shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic on March 12, after the league’s teams had each played two regular-season games.
“We were able to surprise them with what we were doing, we’ll see and adapt to the situation,” Henry said.
Henry said that the tournament will require clubs to play competitive games without an opportunity for any pre-tournament matches.
“It is not an attack or anything,” Henry said. “The situation means that we could not play friendly matches and in general, when you prepare a season, or you prepare a tournament, you always have at least four or five friendly matches to see a little where your players are physically, mentally.”
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, that simply wasn’t possible.
“I know very well that we could not have done otherwise,” Henry said. ”But it is true that it is different. You find yourself in a situation where you are going to learn on the job in competition, right away. This is something that I had never known before and the situation of the coronavirus puts us in this situation.”
That uncertainty isn’t limited to his own club.
FC Dallas withdrew from the tournament on Monday after 10 players and a coach tested positive for the virus.
Additionally, the other two teams in Montreal’s group, Toronto FC’s opening game against D.C. United, has their first match moved from Friday evening to Sunday morning.
There has been no change to the July 15 match between Toronto and the Impact.
Either way, Henry’s concern is to get his players ready, physically and mentally.
“As I’ve said since the beginning of this pandemic, we have to adapt to all situations and I think it’s not just us. MLS also adapts to all situations. No matter what going on, no matter the changes, no matter who will play, who will not play, no matter when, if it will change, or not change,” Henry said.
“You have to adapt. There, you have to be ready. “
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 8, 2020.
Michel Lamarche, The Canadian Press